Review – realMyst: Masterpiece Edition (Switch)
Myst was originally released by Cyan Worlds back in 1993 for PC. I played it for the first time about two years after when my aunt bought it for me. I’d always loved puzzles and she thought this would be right up my alley. However, this was like no puzzle game I’d ever played before. This was like no game that anyone had ever played before. Giving no instructions on where you were or what to do, Myst forced players to solve the island’s mysteries purely by exploration and observation. At the age of twelve, this frustrated me to no end, but the allure of the strange world kept me coming back. Now realMyst: Masterpiece Edition is being released on the Nintendo Switch, inviting a whole new generation of gamers to get lost within its secrets.
When you first start Myst, you’ll find yourself on a strange and beautiful island with no idea as to who you are, where you are, or what you should be doing. Exploring the island offers little in the way of answers and instead raises far more questions. However, reading the books in the library do manage to give you a small insight into one of the island’s inhabitants who has visited several other Ages of Myst, but he has mysteriously vanished. There is no one else around, so the only way to figure out what is going on and see the other Ages is to solve the various puzzles scattered around the island.
Myst was the pioneer for exploration based puzzle games. It offers absolutely no hand holding whatsoever. The only way to get through is to play around with the numerous objects around the island and make extensive notes on just about everything you read and find. More often than not, the answers on how to proceed are right in front of your face, you just have to know where and how to look for them. This is where a lot of players will struggle (myself included). We tend to want to overcomplicate things when most of the answers are fairly simple.
This is the true genius of Myst. Having no one to point you in the right direction or give you hints forces you to rely on your own keen sense of observation and logic. Rand Miller, the co-creator of Myst, has said that his goal when creating the puzzles is to make them seem intricate, but give the the player an “a ha!” moment once the solution finally clicks into place. Like I mentioned earlier, I played this for the first time when I was twelve and even I was able to experience those moments first hand once the right idea came to me. That’s not to say I was some sort of wunderkind. Trust me, it took me a very long time to figure out some of these enigmas. I’m merely pointing out that the answers are there, if you know where to look.
This is one aspect that I appreciated so much from Myst that I feel was a little lacking in more recent titles like Obduction. Don’t get me wrong, Obduction is a wonderful game, but I felt like a few of those puzzles were a bit too complex for some players to figure out on their own. Myst on the other hand, never gives the player any challenge that they can’t reasonably figure out for themselves. It relies a lot on auditory cues for hints, as well as letting you know you’re on the right track. Once that revelation hits you, the game gets significantly easier.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what Myst is for those of you who have never played it before, let’s get into what makes realMyst: Masterpiece Edition different.
First off, there’s the visual aspect. Myst was mind-blowingly gorgeous back when it was released, but as you can imagine, a game from 1993 doesn’t look so great by today’s standards. In realMyst: Masterpiece Edition, the graphics have been vastly improved. It’s a stunning game in almost every way now. There are a few areas that still show its age, like where the edge of the water meets land is still sharp and somewhat angular, and the trees in the Channelwood Age are flat near the tops like they’re cardboard cutouts. However, these nitpicks are minor when you consider how much of a visual overhaul this game has gotten for this version.
Second, we have the sound design. realMyst: Masterpiece Edition retains most of the same sounds effects, the soundtrack, and all of the voice acting from the original, but it has been cleaned up a lot. Now it’s even easier to lose yourself in this world while listening to the water splashing by and the birds singing symphonies in the trees. The auditory cues I mentioned before are even clearer in this version too, making certain paths and puzzles a lot easier to navigate than before. It does still suffer from some of the voice audio being drowned out by the music, especially during the endgame conversation with Atrus, which is a shame.
Third, there are the gameplay mechanics. Myst was a point and click PC game, and you could only navigate by clicking on the top or the sides of the screen. realMyst: Masterpiece Edition allows you to move freely, which makes traversing back and forth across the island much faster and easier. However, you’ll have to use the right Joy-Con to control the cursor you use to interact with things, and this is where the controls get awkward. Trying to move the cursor around with a Joy-Con while attempting to push and pull various buttons and switches gets very frustrating.
There’s also a Touch Mode available on Switch, which replicates the classic point and click gameplay style of the original. You won’t be able to move as quickly since you’ll have to revert to the old way of tapping the top or sides of the screen, but solving puzzles is remarkably easier. I’ll admit that before too long I went back to this mode and was all the happier for doing so. The only big downside to playing it in Touch Mode is that you’ll obviously have to play it handheld, which means looking at the wondrous environments and tiny buttons to puzzles on the Switch’s small screen. As cool as it is to interact with things with the touch of your finger, this is one game that still feels like it plays best on PC.
Lastly, there’s the bonus content. Fans of the original Myst know that there are four different endings to the game. This alone was enough to give it great replay value. Now in realMyst: Masterpiece Edition, there’s a whole new bonus Age you can explore after the events of the main game, assuming you get the “good” ending. This was a fantastic surprise and I won’t touch on it more than that, as I don’t want to get into spoilers. Just know that it’s a short but sweet addition that perfectly caps off the adventure and gets you eager for the next one.
I have to say that even though I was beyond excited to play Myst again, part of me was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the grand memory I had of it. I held this game so close to my heart for so many years, that I worried it would lose some of its wonder replaying it now. Well my apprehensions were unfounded because this game is just as impressive now as it was then. If you’ve ever wondered what made Myst one of the best-selling PC games of all time, or just want to travel back to the mysterious island and relive the magic, there’s no better time than now. Pick up realMyst: Masterpiece Edition and experience the complex and curious adventure for yourself.
The graphics have been vastly improved since its original release back in 1993, but some aspects still don’t look quite as impressive as something made in modern engines.
You can move your player around freely now, but using the Joy-Cons to interact with tons of tiny buttons and switches gets really awkward. You can also opt for a Touch Mode using the touch screen, which gives it the classic point and click feel.
The soundtrack is beautiful and often ambient, allowing you to get lost into the majesty of the island. The sound effects are fantastic throughout. There are a few instances where the background noise covers dialogue.
The iconic game that paved the way for a whole new genre of exploration based puzzle solving games is now available on the go. It also has a new Age for you to explore after the events of the main game.
Final Verdict: 8.5
realMyst: Masterpiece Edition is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of realMyst: Masterpiece Edition was provided by the publisher.